October 23, 2022
Welcome back to my Precepts series—inspired by meaningful thoughts, insights, and discoveries I have during each week, and intentionally designed to help make your life just a little bit better. Enjoy!
You can find the Precepts series in its entirety here.
Precept 67: Hubris
How often do you ask yourself, “What if I'm wrong?”
How often do you check yourself to see if you're truly maintaining an open mind?
How much humble curiosity do you have?
Now, I'm not saying you should be open-minded in a flaky, wishy-washy, easily influenced, unprincipled, believe-one-thing-one-day-and-another-thing-the-next mentality, but rather that you should be willing, should someone present a belief or idea or notion that doesn't agree with your perception of the way the world works, to at least entertain the idea that that other person could quite possibly be correct and you should at least consider whatever they present to you with a healthy dose of openness, humility, and curiosity. That's my own personal approach to just about any debate, argument, book, podcast, discussion, or any other informational or social exchange, and I find that by operating in such a mode of humble curiosity, I actually tend to learn quite a bit, and because I'm not easily offended (since I've set aside any preconceived notions that I must absolutely be 100% correct), it also makes the entire process of learning and discussing new ideas far more enjoyable for me.
Here's another way to think about it…
…just assume for a moment that you and I – the human race in general – has been wrong about a lot.
Yep, in the same way, you might look back at those silly bodybuilders in the '80s thinking they had fitness all figured out, or those folks traveling west in covered wagons who probably thought that a wagon and a few horses were easily the fastest way to get just about anywhere, or those surgeons who laughed at the notion of washing one's hands prior to ripping into a body with a scalpel, just fast forward one hundred years, and pretend you can look back at us poor, stupid ol' humans living in the ancient, imbecilic year of 2022.
Maybe they'll laugh at our own high-falootin' science a hundred years from now, in the same way we now laugh at our ancestor's science a hundred years (or heck, just forty years) back.
For example, what if everything we know about the body is wrong? Set your ego aside for just a moment and imagine if that were the case. Think back to a hundred years ago. What did they believe with firm, unshaken conviction about the body? Then go back a hundred years before that, and ask yourself what they thought about the body? And what will folks think about us a hundred years from now?
Will they shake their heads at the absolute folly of us not realizing that cell phones and VR headsets next to our heads were responsible for a 2040 epidemic of brain cancer?
Will they chuckle at the folks who dismissed the idea of invisible particles or sound frequencies that could somehow affect a human organ, even though it couldn't be seen under a microscope?
Will they discover that the metabolism can turn fats into proteins, or that Beyond Burgers cause heart disease, or that the brain can telepathically communicate, and we just didn’t figure that out yet? Will they laugh at the clunky jet planes we climbed into before they discovered teleportation? Will they scoff at the notion of six senses after they discovered we have twelve? Will warfare become a game of mind reading and remote viewing?
Maybe we need a bit more revision added to our tradition.
Maybe we need a bit more pragmatism added to our dogmatism.
Maybe we need some otherworldly added to our worldly.
What do you think? Is hubris and ego getting in your way of physically, mentally, or spiritually evolving? Please understand that this comes from a guy who believes in God, absolute truth, right and wrong, the solidity of the Ten Commandments of the Bible, and other religious convictions that could very well label me as a hardcore Christian fundamentalist. And while I think that when it comes to spirituality, in particular, there is indeed one single way to salvation and eternal life, I also believe that outside that single, absolute truth, hubris and ego often get in our way of learning and becoming a new and better human with each day. So do yourself a service: approach every conversation with as great a level of humbleness and openness as you can, without feeling as though you need to set aside your moral convictions. You can learn much more about hubris and how to manage it here.
Precept 68: Candle
You may already know that gazing at the gentle flicker of a candle can easily shift you into a relaxed, meditative state. This practice is called “candle meditation,” and here's how to do it. If you do decide to try this type of meditation for yourself, then I would invite you to consider—as you stare into the flicker and flame of the candle—how your own spiritual discipline habits can be much like the waning and brightening of that candle. What I mean by that is that some days you will feel very bright: deeply connected to God, able to seamlessly launch into prayer, highly tuned to the process of speaking and listening to God, and empowered to discover deep truths in your devotional and the Bible. But other days, you may feel stale, faded, dark, dull, and unmotivated, as though there is a foggy cloud between you and God.
That's because you, too, are very much like a candle.
Some days are bright, and some days are dim.
Some days you flicker as though pure oxygen is feeding your flame, and some days it feels as though you have no fuel for your fire whatsoever.
But what's most important is that you keep your candle's wick lit no matter what.
And how do you do that?
Keep coming back, every morning, to seek God. Keep coming back and lighting that candle in the morning. Keep coming back and burning that incense in the morning. Keep coming back and doing breath work, jumping up and down on a trampoline, stretching, or doing whatever it takes to wake your body, mind, and spirit, even if they may feel somewhat dull and senseless. Eventually, you'll find that most days are bright, and the average day slowly becomes brighter than ever. Think of your spiritual growth and spiritual walk much like a flame that waxes and wanes but eventually, with each passing day, grows brighter and brighter. After all, much like that candle, the road to the top of the mountain is often not straight up the side of the mountain, but often zigs and zags and ascends and descends as you approach your peak goal.
Precept 69: Fruits
Though I do meditate and pray at other times during the day too, I make it a high priority to do the lion's share of my personal spiritual care in the morning, specifically prior to “jumping into” work, calls, e-mails, writing, etc.
Before I began to prioritize doing these spiritually-oriented activities in the morning, I would simply squeeze them in whenever they happened to fit during the day: sometimes during a mid-morning break, sometimes after lunch, sometimes before bed, etc., based upon my thinking that, similar to the best kind of exercise program, the best kind of spiritual fitness program is the one that you are actually able to do based upon your schedule.
But recently, I was asked:
“What is the top thing you do during the day to stay present?”
While there were plenty of good answers to this question, such as breathwork, eye contact, avoiding multi-tasking, keeping one's phone in airplane mode, etc., my own answer was that…
…the number one thing I do to maintain peace of mind, spirit, and presence is indeed my morning time with God.
See, as Jesus Christ himself is preparing to go to be crucified, and he is speaking to his disciples during an evening meal at the Passover Festival, he tells them, in John 14:27 of the Bible: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Later in John, Jesus promises that the Helper he is leaving with his disciples—the source of that internal peace—is the Holy Spirit. So I pray each morning that I will be anointed with the Holy Spirit (literally, I say at the end of every morning devotion, “God, please anoint me with the Holy Spirit today“), and subsequently, I find that this prayer bestows a great deal of peace and even greater ability to be present during the rest of the day, especially compared to the times when I used to be in so much of a rush that I would fail to trust that God would provide me ample time to complete my daily tasks, and thus, I would skip my morning prayers, later finding myself stressed and distant from the daily union with God that my heart craves and that my soul feeds upon. Of course, I would also find myself far less capable of being peaceful and present. Now it's important to understand that it's not as though, as a Christian, I'm not already anointed with the Holy Spirit, but I find that by intentionally praying for that anointment, in the same way that I pray to be filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit, I am more mindfully aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit throughout my life during each day.
Furthermore, if you begin each day devoting and committing yourself to time with God, and with a request not only for an anointing of the Holy Spirit but also for the forgiveness of your sins and a petition that God would mercifully create in you a clean heart and a daily, spiritual “car wash” (incidentally, praying through Psalm 51 is a great way to do this), you will find that the fruits of the Holy Spirit pour into any task that you complete during the rest of the day, even the tritest or drudge-filled tasks.
E-mails become more graceful.
Phone conversations become more patient and peaceful.
Meals become more joyful.
Conversations with your friends and family become kinder.
Interactions with co-workers and colleagues become more gentle.
Self-control and resistance to temptation become more masterful.
Forgiveness and setting aside anger and bitterness become a natural practice.
Any task that might normally be associated with negative energy seems to become infused with a relaxed and peaceful positive energy, and yes, that includes how you feel when you finally do flip your phone out of airplane mode and experience the barrage of dings, vibrations, texts, notifications, messages, and e-mails.
Finally, Galatians 5:22-23 says that “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” As my mother used to tell me, if you are right with God, if you are filled with the Spirit, and someone bumps you, aggravates you, annoys you, or upsets you, what subsequently spills forth can be either honey or vinegar.
So which fruit do you desire? And how do you start each day to ensure that, by the grace of God, the fruits that pour out of you are pleasant, present, and peaceful?
That's it for this week! If you have questions, comments, or feedback below, please leave your thoughts. I read them all!